The Mental Price of Moving Back in with Your Big Ethnic Family

The Mental Price of Moving Back in with Your Big Ethnic Family (Photo: Hill Street Studios/Getty Images)

Austin, TXHave you ever prepared for a Zoom meeting in your cramped room where the same “Twilight” posters you’ve had since high school become the awkward focal point of your video calls? I’ve been there too and it’s actually becoming the norm for most young adults in the United States. While everyone’s situation is different, the emotional and mental toll of having to stay home all the time is extra real these days.

According to the Pew Research Center, the pandemic drove millions of young adults back home. As of July 2020, 52% reported they had moved in with their parents. This is the highest percentage it has been for 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. since The Great Depression. While this might be a big change for some, particularly young white Americans who reported the biggest increase out of all racial groups, for people in ethnic communities like myself, this isn’t necessarily new.

Ejay Reyes, a 23-year-old Filipina woman, whose family comes from Guam, has lived with eight members of her family at once while living with her parents her whole life. She says in her culture, it’s normal for family members to live together through different circumstances. 

“It wasn’t until we all moved to the U.S. that my mom’s side of the family decided to live in different areas, but my dad’s side all lived together for some time before deciding to live apart,” Reyes said.

Living with your parents, or in a multigenerational household, is the norm in many ethnic communities — whether Black, Italian, Latinx, or Pacific Islander like Hyde Franco's community. The 23-year-old Filipina has lived on and off with her parents since high school and through studying game art design at Full Sail University in Florida. She lived with her brother, then a roommate, until eventually coming back home. It’s also the norm for her family to remain together no matter the circumstance. 

“It was a struggle living paycheck to paycheck with the job I had at the time, so my mom offered me to come back home since it’s a lot cheaper,” Franco said. “I also moved back because I wasn’t able to get a job with my degree right away after graduation.”

Moving back in with family might be less financially burdensome, but it doesn’t come without a price, as some folx are figuring out. According to a survey from the American Psychology Association, Gen Z had the highest levels of stress and were most likely to report symptoms of depression compared to other generations. This makes sense considering young adults who might’ve moved out to establish their own identities are now facing unavoidable conflict with the people who raised them on their life choices — not to mention the difficulty of skirting around taboo yet important topics, like mental health itself, that isn’t commonly embraced amongst ethnic families. I’ve tried to navigate the topic of certain issues pertaining to health with my family members to no avail. And why push it when things are already tense? 

Jacqueline Melecio, 31, can relate as she only had the mental capacity to return home for one year. She previously reconnected and lived with extended family in Mexico, but when COVID-19 took over the world in March 2020, she uprooted her life and moved back to live with her parents. It wasn’t easy.

“I sunk into this black depressive hole from late March until the end of June,” Melecio said. “I knew the circumstances of what was going on in the outside world were not helping, but the fact that one couldn't even go anywhere to blow off steam from what was going on at home? What that does to your mental state of mind...”

This might not always be the case, of course. But setting boundaries and trying to have your own life separate from your immediate family can be a daunting challenge. On one side, you have shelter and are surrounded by loved ones. On the other, you’re faced with still being looked at as a child who lives under someone else’s roof and rules. 

I know this from being a part of the Hispanic community. My family, and other Latinx families like mine really hang onto our family ties. Always being there for each other (if it’s a day where we’re actually getting along) is one of our biggest values. But living with your Mexican parents means no privacy, constant gossip and background noise — not the most ideal for Zoom calls.

So, how can you be you, when your space is limited in the house? How do you deal with the pressure to be a happy, respectable adult in a house you don’t even own? Honestly, I don’t have the answers. But I can say that regardless of your ethnic background and whether the “new normal” for you is living with your parents, or learning how to balance being a professional with just being a functioning, emotionally stable adult-in-the-making ... you’re not alone.

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